Most people think about chess as simple a game. Little more than a hobby best relegated to public parks and recreation centers. However, many studies has shown that playing chess stimulates the brain in unique and amazing ways, especially for children still developing their full cognitive abilities.
Our mission to show the world that chess is more than just a game. It’s an invaluable tool to encourage cognitive learning on a holistic level by engaging all three aspects of the learning process. Here you can find details about the links between chess and cognitive development, a brief exploration into the history of this mental activity and a tips on explaining chess to students.
Embracing Learning on All Fronts
There should be no limit to the tools used to encourage a growing mind. As simple as this concept may seem, hundreds upon hundreds of schools across the country ignore one of the most effective and simple tools for enhancing the learning experience of their students. In many cases, the blocking issue stems not only from insufficient finances but insufficient information.
Educators and administrators are not aware of the benefits chess can have on encouraging higher levels of cognitive development, and unjustly exclude it from classroom curricula. Understandably, many teachers face strict guidelines and restraints when it comes to planning courses, providing even more hurdles for the proper integration of chess as a learning tool. To this end, we also advocate the use of chess in afterschool programs, which commonly have more leeway when it comes to designing activities.
In order to affect any type of change within the traditional education system, it is imperative to clear the air on the subject in general. By reshaping the perceptions of students, parents and educators alike, we hope to successfully bring chess into classrooms and drastically enhance the learning process for children everywhere.
Combating Misinformation and Misconceptions
The first step to introducing chess into school environments is dispelling the myths and common misconceptions about chess. Popular perception either places it as a simple game that carries no benefit beyond that of entertainment, or that it is an elitist hobby only pursued by a small, exclusionary segment in old, musty libraries. Simply put, both of these views could not be further from the truth.
Chess is a game mental acuity, which does make it more attractive to those more prone to strategy and tactical thinking played anywhere from the outdoors to a modern, well ventilated room. Yet this by no means excludes it from any group of people, as it merely engages the critical and analytical portions of the brain in a greater capacity. At its core, chess is about examining the available options in order to devise a strategy for victory over a component within a clear set of rules. It’s about thinking ahead, formulating a plan and executing a clearly thought out course of action.
In this sense, it’s really no different from traditional sports such as football or modern video games. Each activity involves sizing up the opponent, building a plan of attack and utilizing the resources available to achieve an end goal. It’s about the thrill of competition between two mutually respectful opponents. After learning the rules, which indeed can appear quite confusing at first, chess becomes about the joy that comes from foresight and cleverness, which are universal traits common to everyone.
Understanding the Cognitive Benefit
After eliminating any preexisting bias towards chess, we must also explain the nature and degree of its value within the learning process of developing minds. The concept of cognitive learning outlines three distinct methods through which we all retain information: Attention, Storage and Encoding. The theory dictates that we learn new information by observing it intently (Attention), transferring into our sensory register and through to our long-term memory (Storage), and finally organizing it for future use (Encoding). Chess is the rare activity that engages all three of these processes exquisitely.
The Attention phase is engaged throughout the entirety of each match, as the player must observe the board and analyze the current configuration to determine the next move. Storage comes into play as the player not only tracks the previous moves of the opponent but retains the thoughts of her own future moves. The Encoding phase is also present at many different points, from learning the patterns of different maneuvers to recall during future matches to tracking the movements of the opponent in order to identify any pending threats to her pieces.
This type of stimulation is extremely valuable, especially when considering the constantly developing state of the adolescent brain. Training perception, recall and retention in a means that is both enjoyable and instructional is a rare feat in any field, and one that should not be passed upon.